Because of Winn-Dixie, contemporary fiction, Fiction, Florida, Georgia, Kate Dicamillo, Louisiana's Way Home, Middle Grade
A story of discovering who you are—and deciding who you want to be. —Book Jacket
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas.
But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.) [Synopsis]
A delightful journey of fate, hope and grace
Kate DiCamillo’s storytelling won me over with Because of Winn-Dixie, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Louisiana’s Way Home swept me up on the first page and carried me on a journey I didn’t want to end. On the fateful night when the story begins, Louisiana is forced to leave everything she knows and loves. Yet, like so many situations that appear grim at the outset, Louisiana’s transforms into something far better than she could ever have imagined.
Five things I loved about this book:
The Voice—Louisiana’s plucky spirit and honest insights had me laughing and rooting for her all the way. Like when she insists the dentist must see Granny without having an appointment: “You cannot make an appointment for an emergency, because emergencies are entirely unexpected.”
The Humor—A pervasive humor rings through Louisiana’s voice, the characters, and even the setting to counterbalance the heaviness of Louisiana’s situation and infusing it with hope. Like Louisiana’s criticism of the Good Night, Sleep Tight Motel curtains. The motel is in Georgia and she believes the rooms should have “state appropriate curtains” with peaches not palm trees.
The Characters—We see the adults Louisiana encounters through her honest innocence, and their actions show us who they are. Like Grandfather Burke, with his hand as rough as a horse hoof and a heart so gentle that he holds her hand when needs it most.
The Friendship—Friendship sparks between Louisiana and Burke Allen, and his crow Clarence, when he appears on the roof of the Good Night, Sleep Tight Motel and offers to get her anything she wants from the motel vending machine. Their friendship blossoms with camaraderie and over time the doorway of grace opens.
The Theme—Difficult situations and how we choose to handle them define us. Ultimately, we decide who we are and who we become. The strong yet gentle way in which Louisiana faces physical and emotional upheaval hint at the person she’ll grow into in the years to come.